Friday, October 19, 2007

The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford: A Four-Sentence Movie Review By the Windbag Ian Casselberry

Whenever I hear that a movie is featuring Jesse James, I'm reminded of the dozens of times I watched The Long Riders on whatever movie channel we had once we got cable, how glorious the gunplay and sex (and Caine as a cowboy!) was to my grade-school self, and how that movie (along with the Clint Eastwood/Sergio Leone flicks) surely must have influenced my current affection for Westerns.  Unfortunately, The Long Riders was a long time ago, and to the best of my knowledge, there hasn't been a portrayal of Jesse James (and that includes the one with Colin Farrell and the chick from Heroes) that's come anywhere near a movie that made me run around our townhouse complex with my friends, shooting die-cast metal six-shooters (cap guns were the shiznit, I reckon), and constantly getting me in trouble with neighbors - and thus the manager of our complex.

Going into this version of the James story, I knew that it was going to be slowly and deliberately paced, with plenty of long, lingering shots of wheat stalks swaying in the wind and clouds moving along the sky, along with the added tedium of characters contemplating... whatever the hell the voiceover narration (blurgh) told us they were contemplating, but was also confident that the presence of Sam Shepard (for any Western to be good, it must have Shepard, Sam Elliott, or Robert Duvall in the cast), as well as the assassination referenced in the title meant that the movie wouldn't be missing too many key ingredients.

The more I think about it, the more I feel like the fable-like tone of the movie - including the camera's loving adoration of Brad Pitt simulating the culture's fascination with the outlaw, and everyone in James' company shivering with fear and suspicion, reminding us that this "hero" was a thief and a killer - is actually perfect, better suited to deal with a legend and whatever tales might come with that, rather than attempt a closely historical account that could demystify any memories - from movies, storybook, or otherwise - that some of us might still enjoy.